Friday, May 5, 2017

Elizabeth Wein

Elizabeth Wein was born in New York City, grew up abroad, and currently lives in Scotland with her husband and two children. She is an avid flyer of small planes. She also holds a PhD in Folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. Her books include the acclaimed Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire, and Black Dove, White Raven.

Wein's new novel is The Pearl Thief.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
In the past five years I’ve experienced great success as a writer, but I’ve found that it comes at the cost of reading for pleasure. I have a stack of books that I’m reading for research which, lined up, stretches across the room. The research relates to my current work in progress, a middle-grade non-fiction book about the women who flew as combat pilots for the Soviet Union during World War II. It’s fascinating reading, but it’s not reading for pleasure.

I’ve also received a lot of requests in recent years to provide endorsements for books for my fellow writers. This is a real honor, and it’s also a task I greatly enjoy. Still, there’s pressure: there’s always a deadline and responsibility involved, and I don’t choose these books myself. It’s still work rather than recreation, even if I’m lucky enough to have a job I love.

Then, about three months ago I received a surprise gift in the mail from one of my best friends. It was a stack of five very fat books, all by the same author, with matching covers each in a different color. The books are a series by Elizabeth Jane Howard called the Cazalet Chronicles. At an estimate I’d say that the complete series contains over 3000 pages – not a quick weekend read! With the gift of the books, my friend included a note saying how much she’d enjoyed them and how she felt she’d be “bereft” when she finished the series.

Intrigued, I started the first book: The Light Years. And I knew exactly what my friend meant. In these books plot is character, and character is plot. Through the window of Howard’s writing, we follow each member of the Cazalet family in England from the 1930s onward, as they variously grow, age, give birth, die, and are born – an endless litany of life events both big and small, all of it presented with humor, sympathy and clarity.

I’m now in the middle of the second book in the series, Marking Time. World War II is just beginning. Already someone is missing – I fear that several of the characters I’ve come to love are ultimately doomed, but as in real life, it’s impossible to know which, and all I can do is continue to love them, enjoy the gift of their company in the present, and hope for the best in the future.

My friend was right – I adore these books. I, too, will be bereft when I have finished them all. But it’s going to take me a long time to make my way through the entire series. I won’t be reading anything else for a while.
Visit Elizabeth Wein's website.

The Page 69 Test: Black Dove, White Raven.

The Page 69 Test: The Pearl Thief.

--Marshal Zeringue